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Tuesday, August 10, 2004
 

Watching NFL Careers Go "Up in Smoke": Every day, thousands of children across the nation dream of being professional athletes. They play in pick-up games with their friends and in recreational leagues in their communities with the hopes that one day, they will be able to play in front of screaming crowds and adoring fans. Over 99.9% of them will not achieve this dream -- they do not have the talent. That is why it is so sad to see those that do have the talent waste it. The NFL provides two examples of such a waste today: Quincy Carter and Ricky Williams.

Carter was cut by the Cowboys on Wednesday because coach Bill Parcells did not believe he could lead the team as a quarterback should. There is much doubt, however, about the reasoning that led to this conclusion, with much speculation centering on Carter's two failed drug tests and recent stay in a substance abuse facility.

Williams announced his "retirement" a few weeks back, stating that he had lost his desire to play the game. The days that followed revealed that a number of failed drug tests, which could have led to a suspension, may have hastened his decision to leave the game.

These moves have led to a number of questions and potential contractual issues. Should Carter have to give back part of his signing bonus for failing to perform to the terms of his contract? Should Williams have to pay back a portion of his performance bonuses from the past two seasons? Did the Cowboys violate the collective bargaining agreement by cutting Carter for failing a drug test? Do the Dolphins have any recourse against a key player that chooses marijuana over nutritional supplements?

I feel little sympathy for either player. Some, including Bill Maher, have argued that making players take a drug test for a non-performance enhancing drug is un-American and a ludicrous imposition. But these drugs are most certainly performance-inhibiting. A player on marijuana, or cocaine, surely cannot perform to the same level if he were not on the drugs. Teams paying millions of dollars have a right to know that they are getting the entire player, and not just a percentage. Carter may have been cut after he failed a drug test, but he was not cut because he failed a drug test -- he was cut because he was not being the leader a team needs in its quarterback. Not only was he engaging in an illegal activity, but his doing so would inhibit his physical performance. A union grievance seems comical and a waste of time. Williams also cut short a potentially brilliant career, if only because he could not refrain from certain indulgences. I don't think he should have to give back any money, because he did achieve the goals needed to earn it, the Dolphins are rightfully upset by his choices that have led to this course of events.

I am not here to preach the evils of marijuana or sing the praises of the drug laws. But the fact remains that the laws are on the books and the league rules exist. These players are being paid millions and it is a small thing to ask them to abide by them. Sadly, a few do not, and in doing so, waste the talent so many others could only dream of possessing.





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